German soldiers stand to attention in front of a German Patriot missile launcher at the Gazi barracks in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey on March 25. Poland has shortlisted the Patriot system for its anti-missile program. (John MacDougall / AFP/Getty Images)
ROME — The decision by Poland to admit Raytheon’s Patriot to a short list of bidders for its anti-missile program, while excluding the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program, has spurred rival claims over performance between the two.
On June 30, the Polish Defense Ministry announced that it was narrowing its search for a missile defense system to two candidates, the Patriot and the Aster offered by the Eurosam consortium of Thales and MBDA.
That ended the hopes of fellow contenders MEADS — proposed by a Lockheed Martin-led consortium — and the Israeli “David’s Sling” system.
After making it to the final shortlist, a Raytheon official said the firm was also focusing hard on selling an upgrade of the Patriot system to Germany, where its competitor is once again MEADS.
“In Germany we can come in at a third of the cost and in half the time of MEADS,” said William Blake, Raytheon’s director for Integrated Air & Missile Defense Business Development.
Winning Germany would rank as a near fatal blow to MEADS, originally a joint Italo-US-German program until the US decided not to procure the system. Lockheed Martin and its European partner MBDA are now wrapping development in the hope Italy and Germany will buy it.
Blake would not say how much Germany would need to pay to upgrade its Patriot system, but said Raytheon has offered a Patriot set-up with new 360-degree coverage by 2020, assuming the program got underway in 2015.
MEADS officials have said Germany will need to spend up to €3 billion (US $4 billion) to complete development and procure MEADS to make it operational by 2018-19, integrating the German Iris-T missile. A decision from Germany about pushing on with MEADS or updating its Patriot system could come this year.
MEADS officials point out Raytheon is only now developing 360-degree radar coverage, which is already built into MEADS.
But Blake said Raytheon’s eventual 360-degree offering would be based on three fixed arrays that would outperform the rotating radar used by MEADS. “Rotating does not give you the fire control quality needed for realistic threats,” he said.
A MEADS International official countered that a new Patriot radar would be “extremely expensive and a compromise between the optimum tracking accuracy and efficient surveillance frequencies. This conceptual radar will be required to perform both surveillance and fire control and will be even heavier than today’s Patriot radar, and thus even harder to deploy and move.”
Moreover, the MEADS spokesperson said, “Under the category of ‘high intensity raid,’ the MEADS multifunction fire control radar does not need to stop and stare. It was designed to handle the same high intensity raid as Patriot but do so over 360 degrees.”
MEADS will have home advantage since Germany has held a 25 percent stake from the start. If it pushes on with the program, Berlin would use the MEADS battle manager system, radar and launcher.
But Blake argued that Raytheon could also harvest MEADS technologies with Germany to update the Patriot. “Our offer respects MEADS and Iris-T and would integrate mature elements,” he said. “We have talked to the German MoD about using the solid-state radar technology Germany has built for MEADS as well as the system’s near vertical launcher.”
Raytheon said the selling point of Patriot was “the power of large numbers,” given that 220 fire units were deployed with customers. “We anticipate 36 new fire units and eight upgrades to be ordered in the next 12 months, there are continuous advances and there is the sharing of costs among 12 partners,” he said. “It is also a program of record to which the US has committed to at least until 2048.”
In Poland, he added, 360-degree coverage has been offered, but, he added, “we are talking about a phased approach.”
The MEADS International official was skeptical. “It is unlikely Poland would pay the bill to modernize the 40-year-old Patriot design should they choose Patriot,” the official said. “In fact, this configuration will not even be ready for fielding for 7-10 years at a minimum once funding is established.”
Blake said that finding cash for development would also be a problem for MEADS.
“Go back and look at the DoD document explaining why the US decided not to carry on with the [MEADS] program,” he said. “It clearly states another $900 million would be required just to complete development beyond 2014, and that would have been just for the US.”
“Germany would still need to spend multiple billions after development to procure MEADS and replace their missile inventory,” he said.